News / Asia

India's Bootleg Liquor Exacts Human Toll

A man buys illegal "country liquor," also known as "hooch," in Allahabad, India, Dec. 15, 2011.
A man buys illegal "country liquor," also known as "hooch," in Allahabad, India, Dec. 15, 2011.
Kurt Achin

Police in India's West Bengal state say they have arrested a key figure responsible for distributing poisonous homemade alcohol that killed scores of people last year.

Illegal alcohol is a widespread problem in India, where it offers short-term relief from life's hardships, but takes a heavy toll on health.

Habibul Gazi, for example, will never be able to see again. Doctors say his optic nerves have been irrevocably damaged by consuming illegally produced toxic alcohol.

"I asked him to stop drinking, but he never listened," says his distraught wife via translator, explaining that he beat her during arguments about drinking. Now, she says, her family is ruined.

Class and caste

The notion of moderate social drinking has taken root primarily among India's elite and emerging wealthy classes. But in areas where life is much harder, so is the drinking.

The government taxes alcohol heavily, in part to discourage binge consumption. But former tax official Bijay Chakrabarty says the high taxes only drive many people to consume the so-called "hooch."

"Now a poor man cannot afford licit liquor when hooch is available at such a cheap price," he says. "Moreover, licit liquor is available only at fixed places licensed by government, whereas hooch liquor [has] no fixed place. At every nook and corner of a village or a town you can have it."

Small illegal hooch-producing operations are numerous and often spring up just as quickly as they are swept away.

Makers of hooch, also called "country liquor," use a very crude distillation process that can leave a lot of impurities in the final product. They sometimes add chemical extenders, even fuel products, that can produce deadly consequences.

In December, headlines abounded with reports of at least 150 people dying in West Bengal after consuming illegal liquor laced with methanol.

Many ordinary Bengalis, like school teacher Hasanuzzaman Mollah, are skeptical of government promises to crack down on the country liquor industry.

"Many hooch joints are running in front of police stations, right in front of police," he says via translator. "They even get support from police in their illegal dealings."

Indian officials hope to convince more of its poorer citizens that the attraction of alcohol that costs only pennies can carry a very high human cost.

But for Saharun Bibi, whose husband earned a modest income as a tailor before he was killed by homemade liquor, government efforts are too little and too late.

"My husband left nothing to help raise our eight children," she says via translator, adding that she is clueless about how to marry off her daughters and feed the family.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid